‘not a valid url’

July 19, 2015

Still, after all these years, wishing I understood WordPress better. Sigh. It says my link to Facebook isn’t valid. That is as maybe. But it works!

If your experience is that it doesn’t (should you feel inspired to try it – even just out of devilment) do let me know. I will then go to the trouble of attempting to fix it.

However, from where I’m sitting it ain’t broke, so …

Some random poetry of mine (as it’s National Poetry Day)

October 6, 2016


Helpless to do otherwise, I follow Venus
around the Leighton Buzzard by-pass.
We have both been out for the evening.
But I am going home now: she strikes an attitude
hand on her hip, reflecting the light
of her little upstart sister, the moon.
(Who should have been in bed hours ago.)
She makes fun of me for heading home so early.

‘We girls must stick together,’ she says
as the night grows blacker and she glows brighter.
And it is true that now I cannot take my eyes off her
effulgence, her effervescence; she is more a danger
to traffic than drink or drugs when she sparkles
at us poor mortals like this. I want to go with her: I do!
‘This,’ she reminds me, ‘is not how you used to behave.
Once you’d have followed me anywhere,
any time of the day or night. Now look at you. Tsk.’

And she is right of course. But getting older
isn’t an issue for Venus. Compared to her
I am only an ancient gadfly, already a day old,
fading fast on feeble wings. And even if my body
still excited passions, was still excited by them,
I am reminded by my intellectual parts
that I have many things on my ‘to do’ list yet
before my light dims and finally goes out.


“And for a moment I found myself in a place that was neither the past nor the present, neither real nor unreal. Rothoron, my aunts called it. Probably you have been there yourself, whoever you are and wherever in the world you are reading this. Rothoron, the gossamer bridge suspended between sleep and wakefulness.” (From Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna)

My world is more hard-edged than that.
The sun never shines hard enough, here, to induce
this kind of dreaming. The land never shimmers
in that way. The best that we can do is, sometimes,
to create a mirage out of (say) the A303, so that it seems
to be a river, flowing, when actually it is a long, slow road
that takes you past Stone Henge towards the west country
with all the mystic glide of a brick through a window.

If it’s neither now nor then, not waking nor sleeping
but dreaming all the same, then it’s probably medication
that’s at the bottom of it. I call these thyroid dreams –
the only vivid dreams I ever get that stay with me on waking.
Sometimes they chase me into the enforced naps
I can’t always avoid. Sometimes they colour the whole day.
Sometimes pleasant; sometimes not. Unreliable, certainly.

You see, we of colder climes – we always know the difference between
the real and unreal. Britain is a hard-nosed place, that knows
the price of everything and values very little.
Gossamer here means spiders’ webs, blowing in the chilly draft
through the window, which wastes the expensive heat (compare
prices online now! Save 100s of pounds!! Beat the price increases!!!)

If you enjoy Rothoron, then you are seriously disturbed,
using illegal substances (and having far too much fun)
or really very ill. And if They know that you’re enjoying
Rothoron then they will come and make you stop it.
You see, it’s just not British, is it?

‘Per ardua ad astra’

(on 5 July, 2016 the space probe Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit)

Juno left home five long years ago
to visit her turbulent husband.

She knew his temper
so clad herself in armour

She knew his silences
so sharpened all her senses

To pick up his least murmur.
Now she has caught up with him

in his solitary splendour
has hooked her arm in his

Now for a time they spin together
until he wears her patience thin,

Opens his arms and welcomes her in.

Undo changes to annual dogs-on-town-beach permission

October 4, 2016

If you live in Weymouth and like to walk your dog on the beach in autumn, winter and spring, please consider signing this petition which some of us have put together.

Just click the link at the bottom of the post, and you should arrive at the place of signing.


If you are walking your dog on the beach this month, be aware that the Council is, apparently, hiring enforcers to issue spot fines to offenders. The signs don’t say how much such spot fines are.


Cooool offer

September 25, 2016

My volume of short stories – Ice Cold Passion – is available free on Kindle US and UK) from 27 until 1 October.

Get it while it’s … er …  cold.

Ice Cold Passion Front Cover 27_10_14

Book review: As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M Doweyko

September 21, 2016

**Originally written for “BigAl’s Books and Pals” book blog. May have received a free review copy.**

As Wings Unfurl by [Doweyko, Arthur M.]

Genre: SF/crime

Description: “Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.

Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.

Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.”

Author: “After retiring in 2009, Arthur M. Doweyko took up writing fiction. His novel Algorithm garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award, and is also available in paperback. He has published a number of short stories, many of which have been selected as Finalists in the Royal Palm Literary Award contest, and two Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Arthur was awarded the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for his contribution to the discovery of Sprycel, a novel anti-cancer drug successfully brought to the marketplace in 2009. He has authored over one hundred publications (papers, abstracts, patents, book chapters) and has been an invited lecturer in a number of drug-discovery and computational venues.

Arthur lives in Florida with the love of his life, Lidia. When he’s not writing, he’s happily wandering the beaches.”

More about the author here, on his website: http://www.arthurmdoweyko.com/

Appraisal: This is a mashup of book genres which, like most hybrids, fizzes with energy. It is set mainly in New York in 1975. As well as apparent guardian angels and an imminent End Of The World As We Know It scenario, there is a new theory of Creation; murder, burglary and general mayhem; and a cast of interesting characters it is easy to root for: there is plenty going on.

Doweyko has an economical, straightforward style which pushes the book along at a goodly clip. Plenty of humour – black, slapstick and ironical  – is employed as a well-judged leaven to the running, fighting, and gory bits, of which there are plenty. In addition the author delivers pithy and interesting description of how ‘Apple’ lost his leg in ‘Nam, the second-hand bookshop where he works and the various locations in New York, London and Tibet (yes, Tibet) which all help to drive the book along.

Tibet. Yes. The characters really get around, so the reader needs to pay attention. I like this sort of surprise, the location shifts are well signposted and the changes quickly bed in. None of the scene changes are gratuitous. Tibet is essential if for no other reason than we meet two delightful characters there, whom I enjoyed very much. The epilogue to the book, when these two are returned to the bosoms of their families, is quite delightful.

The book reminded me slightly of Dr Who, in that someone frequently yells ‘run!’ at his or her companions. That sort of frenetic solution to plotting needs to be very well focussed, and used sparingly, to be effective. In a similar vein, people who quite patently should be dead of their injuries, who are described as dead, and are mourned or celebrated as being dead, keep coming back to life and then being killed all over again. This sort of ploy also needs to be used more sparingly than it is here. There are some characters who are significantly more powerful than others – to the point where at times this reader questioned the need for the ordinarily-abled to be on the team. And, finally, the reader is clouted with the (thinnish) reason why the world needs to end rather too frequently. The sum total of which infelicities have lost the book a star.

Nevertheless, the quality of the writing is good enough to transcend that sort of thing, and I think you will find this book an engaging read if you like your crime a bit off the wall and/or your SF rooted in the here and now. And if you have a thing about Tibet it should leave you with a big, goofy grin on your face. It did me.

Here’s a link to buying the book in the UK:


and to purchasing in the USA:


My rating: ****

Approximate page count: 234 pages

Poems : Corbyn

September 21, 2016

Two opportunities upcoming in October to enjoy fresh-minted poetry and music and support Corbyn, courtesy of the excellent Shoestring Press. See reproduced posters below for dates, times, poets reading etc –


For some reason this second one won’t display as a proper poster – but click the link: it does work. To save those of you already promised elsewhere for the afternoon of 22 October from a wasted click, I will confide that that is the date of the second launch, in Oxford, at 4.30 p.m..


2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

September 14, 2016

2312 by [Robinson, Kim Stanley]

I really enjoyed this – but I should add that I am a fan of his Mars trilogy, and of his ecological novels too (he manages to make cycling sound like fun – which is an achievement, in my book). I was made up to find he’d written another book in the ‘Mars’ milieu (this one – and since then another ‘the Martians’ which catches us up with how terraforming Mars and living in harmony with each other is going). If you relish learning about the ways people live after we’ve made the move into space, then you will love this book. If you want to know about the planet Mercury, then you will love it. If you want a lot to happen, not a whole lot does. There is a long walk and a lot of whistling. There are maleficent pebbles. There is galactic politics. Robinson does, however, continually review what it is to be human and what the human condition could become. Like all his work, it is immensely thought-provoking, even if you don’t believe that this is the way humanity will develop. 2312 has confirmed my opinion that Kim Stanley Robinson is the finest writer of SF working today.

Review of Tesla’s Signal by L Woodswalker

August 14, 2016

**Originally written for “BigAl’s Books and Pals” book blog. May have received a free review copy.**

Tesla's Signal by [Woodswalker, L.]

Genre: science fiction

This is from the author’s ‘Note to Readers’ at the front of the book:

“The Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is the developer of the alternating current electrical system which the world has used for over 100 years. Thus, he can rightly be called ‘the father of the industrial age’. And yet until recently, his name was virtually invisible. When I first learned his story, it seemed so incredible that I said ‘this is a science fiction story that practically writes itself!’ … Some of the devices and theories depicted here are loosely based on Tesla’s documented work, while others are based on the more ‘legendary’ aspects of the Tesla story. Still others are sheer fancy. … The basic ideas of this novel – that Tesla had otherworldly visions, and claimed to have received signals from Mars – are documented in all of his biographical material.”

Description: I have filleted the description of the book on Amazon a bit, as it is full of spoilers.

Electric Wizard…Mad Scientist…Public Enemy Number One!

Nikola Tesla has a unique affinity for electric current…he can visualize the unseen…he speaks with beings of light. In 1899, he receives a message from “Mars”. …Then things start to go wrong – and he and his brilliant colleague Clara must go on the run. … At the same time, Nikola must learn to tap into the cosmic forces and face his own demons. …A classic-style SF novel that blends real history with fantastic gizmos, far-out space wonder, and hair-raising adventure.

Author:“L Woodswalker (Laura Todd) was raised in State College, Pennsylvania, where her father was an engineering professor at Penn State University. Her family enjoyed hiking on Tussey Mountain and the surrounding hills of Central Pennsylvania. She is a lifelong hiker and woodswalker.

At college her favorite subjects were Art and Biology. She later worked as a nurse and graphic designer. She became interested in electricity after learning to wire simple LED circuits.

Woodswalker has attended the Philadelphia Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop for many years. Her short fiction has been published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and The Magic Within anthology.

When she is not writing, Laura might be composing ambient electronic music, which she performs at the Electro-Music Festival in Huguenot, New York. Some of her other creative outlets include art and video, DIY crafts and steampunk gadgetry.

Laura’s grandmother Ida Epstein came to America from Kostopol, Ukraine, in the early 1900s. To Laura’s knowledge, no one from this side of the family was a theremin player or an electrical genius. As for Jake Flint, it is possible that he, or another ancestor, may have been a bootlegger.

The author admits that there might be a sequel to Tesla’s Signal in the works. To keep apprised of the author’s latest writing projects, visit woodswalker.weeby.com or facebook.com/teslasignal”

Appraisal: You get a lot of bang for your buck with this book. I picked it up because I knew so little about Nikola Tesla. I only heard about him properly when British telly had a brief flirtation with the excellent ‘Warehouse 13’ SF series. And it is certainly true that I know a lot more about him now. How much of what I’ve learned is true is another matter.

So the bangs you get for your buck are these: lots of information about Tesla’s life and inventions (although you have to decide for yourself what of this is fact and what is fiction); two sorts of aliens – the Alu (all of whose names begin with an ‘A’ – which made them pretty interchangeable for this reader) and the U’jaan; a well-drawn, kick-ass, super-bright, female colleague and love interest in Clara Eps; Theremin  concerts (if you’ve ever wondered whether, after Sheldon Cooper’s assault upon it, the device is capable of making actual music); all wrapped up in a well-written, old-fashioned, rip-roaring SF romp along the lines of HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson. And you get Woodswalkers enormous enthusiasm for her subject on every page.

That’s a lot to fit into one book. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the book has sprawled a bit. There are places where the story loses focus briefly, and some unnecessary repetitious material appears. Furthermore, I did wonder about the vast numbers of electrical things that Tesla and Eps made in very small amounts of time – the most sensational being a flying saucer invented and constructed in days.

On the other hand there are many lovely passages like this:

“… he had seen the whole system in his mind: magnets and coils of bright copper wire, the color of earth’s blood, drawing out the electrons into a miraculous dance. And then further refinements to control and guide the current, braiding them as Mother’s fingers twisted the yarn on her knitting needles.”

If you want to know more about Nikola Tesla, and/or enjoy SF novels from the turn of the twentieth century, then I think you will enjoy this book.

Format/typo issues: On the file I read there were some, minor, proofing errors and a recurring formatting infelicity.

Star rating = 4

Length: 408 pages


The Versatile Blogger Award

June 22, 2016


Thank you for nominating me, ajoobacats (https://ajoobacatsblog.com/author/ajoobacats/), on your Daily Musing and Reflections blog, for this intriguing award.


Show the award on your blog
Thank the person that has nominated you
Share 7 different facts about yourself
Nominate 15 blogs of your choice
Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination

7 facts about me:

I self-publish

I live beside the seaside

I am writing a ‘history and mystery’ novel about Genghis Khan’s missing body

Last Monday I wrote a sonnet (it wasn’t awfully good, but it was definitely a sonnet)

My Swiss Cheese plant is taller than I am

I still love cork tiles (yes, you can still get them)

I believe I am turning into an unreconstructable old anarchist.

I nominate:

Caroline’s  @ Advancing Poetry – http://advancingpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/ (poet’s blog)

Dan’s @ https://danholloway.wordpress.com/ (writer and thinker’s blog)

Sam’s @ https://childtasticbooks.wordpress.com/ (blog about children’s books)

Fay’s @ http://www.fayroberts.co.uk/ (performance poet’s blog)

Big Al and Pals @ http://booksandpals.blogspot.co.uk/ (reviews of self and small press published books)

and the related blog for indie writers: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/ (resource for indie writers)

Hannah @ http://hannahchutzpah.com/ (performance poet’s blog)

Marshal @ http://www.marshal.co.uk/comedy/ (stand-up comedian’s blog)

Ruth @ https://ruthdownie.com/books/ (historical novellist’s blog (Roman period))

Alison @ http://alison-morton.com/ (alternative history author’s blog (Roman period +))

Joanna @ http://mydelayedreactions.blogspot.co.uk/ (author’s blog)

Carol @ http://carolmckay.co.uk/ (author’s blog)

Bill @ https://billgreenwell.wordpress.com/ (poet’s blog)

Katrina @ http://www.katrinanaomi.co.uk/ (poet’s blog)

Crysse @ http://www.cryssemorrison.co.uk/ (author’s blog)

(Don’t feel obliged – as if you would! – to continue this chain. It has been a pleasure to give you all a shout-out).

After the colon …

May 29, 2016

I make a point of having a rummage through the Kindle bestseller lists about once a week. These days I have noticed there is a fashion for adding something … ‘eye-catching’ I suppose is what it’s meant to be … after the title, by bunging in a colon. Neither the colon nor what follows are, actually, part of the title.

Here are the top 10 ‘after the colon’ listings this week. They comprise 10 of the top 14 books listed:

the #1 bestseller’ (well, it is, so fair enough)

a psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming

the gripping debut thriller everyone is raving about

the gripping thriller that everyone is talking about’

a gripping serial killer thriller

a gripping serial killer thriller’ – (yes, honestly, repeated exactly, word for word. At this point I am going to out ‘Bookouture’, the publisher of these two books by different authors, and suggest that they should get some kind of award for paucity of imagination)

the perfect feel good summer read

the gripping psychological thriller that’s got everyone talking …

a laugh-out-loud read that will put a spring in …’ (the title is so long it has dribbled off the end of the space available for it)

a shocking and compelling new crime thriller – NOT for the …’ (Again – too long, so truncated. Not for whom? My guess is that the people for whom it is not are the oh-so-clichéd ‘faint-hearted’. But we shall never know, because the number of spaces available for this tagline has been miscalculated. The book it bigs up is #30 paid for in the Kindle Store. I find this the most fascinating of the 10. Can it be the unfinished tagline that has pushed people to read it?)

The authors and/or their publishers have spotted that there is space for titles longer than they’re using and have decided to exploit this. Unfortunately, in several cases, they have bundled together so many words that important information (like which number book in which series this book is) disappears off into the ether. Which I consider silly. One of the things which irks me about Amazon’s listings is how hard it sometimes is to find the books in a series in the order in which one wants to read them. Obviously this ain’t helping.

But the thing which has impelled me to blog about it is this – is the hyperbole after the colon helping anyone establish anything? If you want a thriller, there is a category for that on Kindle. And when one goes to that genre, there are these same books again (not the romances, obviously).

If you really, really can’t let those unused spaces alone, can you and/or your publisher not find anything more original to say about your book than ‘gripping serial killer thriller’? (The two romances have done better, so the bar isn’t set absolutely at ground level.) And do you attribute your good sales to this standard, ubiquitous, hyperbole after the colon, or to the quality of the book?

Authors – do you do this? Do you believe it works?

Readers – does this inform your decision on what to read?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts, folks.


Review of ‘The Scroll of Years’ by Chris Willrich

May 28, 2016


I pursued this book high and low and finally fettled a copy with the depressing word ‘discard’ on the back. Thereafter I have taken ages to read it, in the same way that one tries to make a particularly delicious ice cream last.

This is the first full length novel about Willrich’s delightful pair of characters Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone. I first met them in short story form and was bowled over by them and their adventures. Hence my quest, when I discovered they existed at longer length. They make guest appearances in various SF and fantasy magazines over more than a decade, so I am hoping that Willrich collects all their adventures together at some point.

What is so great about these characters? Well, obviously, it is what Willrich has made of them. They inhabit a world (at times, worlds) which Willrich has teased out of our Far East, but with subtle differences and shifts which mean that just when you think you have a handle on the what, where, why, when, how and who of it, the whole thing gives a shake like a wet dog and you end up in a different ambience altogether. There are dragons (I love dragons) and then again, perhaps they aren’t dragons. There is magic, and belief systems that one wishes really existed, and true love and honour, and extraordinary feats of physical daring and strength, and immortality and death, and a scroll into which one may enter and live. It is the scroll that provides the heart of the book. Gaunt dives into the scroll when in extreme peril. But a scroll is, itself, a fragile artefact – will it survive?

Willrich’s plotting is delightful. But it is his turn of phrase which never flags. He constantly draws in allusions and permits himself excursions around his own plot which, nevertheless, do not slow pace nor obfuscate the plot. This is clever work. The result is thought-provoking as well as a rollicking good fantasy story. Here is a short extract, taken at complete random, to show what I mean. Any page would give as good an example:

“’Is this place a sort of dream?” Gaunt asked. “Or am I truly in another universe?”

He laughed. “Every place is a sort of dream. But more to your point, this place is normal.”

Now Gaunt laughed. “Having arrived via art appreciation, I question that view.”’

‘About the author’ assures the reader that Willrich is now writing full time. I should jolly well hope so. I am awaiting your next novel with breath bated, Mr Willrich …